You’ve bought the perfect home, and have settled in to what looks like the quaintest community this side of Mayberry. Your neighbors wave as you pull in the driveway, and bring over a plate of brownies to welcome you the neighborhood. The house is mere blocks from a great school that the kids can walk to. And the property taxes? So low you can afford to take an extra weekend vacation this year!
Thus represents the average amount of research that new homeowners put into their potential new ‘hood. You think about the kids, you think about your wallet. But there is so much more to your community than good schools and friendly neighbors. The area you live in needs to be just as perfect a fit as the four walls that surround your family while they sleep at night. After all, your home is made up of more than just the structure you live in; it’s a collection of the people and the personality that make up your entire neck of the woods.
So what else should you be looking at? How do you find the facts you need to settle on the right area for you and your family? Think of it like a Monopoly game board - you’ve picked the Thimble (naturally), got your cash in order, and picked up the dice. It’s time to take a look at the rest of the board. And you can do it without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go: No matter how nice a given area looks, crime can be lurking just around the corner. A fairly quick search on sites like crimereports.com or spotcrime.com can give you all you need to know about violent crime statistics in the area, and access to police blotter aggregators. Heck, a Google Street View search can give you a quick glance at the feel of the block. But if you really want to feel safe about the neighborhood your moving into, reach out to the local police department and ask them for a crime report - they’ll be happy to oblige.
Pennsylvania Railroad: The kids might have a short walk to school, but did you think about your commute? What about your proximity to medical specialists, or the freeway? Quiet, peaceful neighborhoods tend to be located in slightly more isolated areas, which often reduces the amount of public transportation options. Make sure that you have ease of access to all of the activities that make up your life, from work to Home Depot. A little time spent on sites like walkscore.com could go a long way towards making every day life accessible to you and your family.
Community Chest: Last but not least, what about the culture that makes up your new ‘burgh? Will you match financially with the surrounding families? Does the neighborhood value diversity and take pride in its local businesses? Are you going to be overrun by baby strollers, or kept up at night by singles looking to party till dawn? Research income, diversity, age, and relationship status stats on sites like city-data.com. Your lifestyle is an important part of the place you call home; make sure that you and your family FEEL like a part of the community.
By taking the time to do a little homework, you’ll know ahead of time whether or not you’ll be comfortable in your new locale, even before you actually step foot in it. It'll be better than winning 2nd Prize in a Beauty Contest...
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